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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Book review - No Time for Goodbye

Linwood Barclay seemed to explode onto the thriller writing scene in 2008 when this book (published in 2007)was selected for the Richard and Judy Summer Read.  Its premise is an intriguing one – fourteen-year-old Cynthia wakes up in a silent house and her family – mother, father and brother – have disappeared. No sign of them – and no trace for the next twenty-five years.

But now, Cynthia is contacted anonymously, and the suggestion that her family might be alive…

This revelation puts a strain on her marriage to Terry and has a serious effect on their daughter Grace. The narrator is Terry, in the first person – though there are a few intermittent chapters in the third person regarding two individuals whose identity remains mysterious for most of the book.
Barclay’s writing style sucks the reader in (some critics think it just sucks). I don’t think it matters too much regarding the limited description, the word repetition, the occasional logic issue – could the police be so derelict in their duty twenty-five years ago? – because the pace never seems to let up.

I like a book with humour, and both Terry and his family display this trait from time to time. There are poignant and suspenseful moments, too – as you’d expect. The pace is helped by sinister hints, some valid, some not, and misdirection. The story does have an emotional pull, too, though sometimes the writing neglects this as the narrator tells us rather than shows us – for example, Grace goes missing in the mall, every parents’ nightmare – yet we’re not privy to any physiological response, just simply ‘Where the hell…’ from him and ‘Oh my God,’ from Cynthia. No mention of that numb feeling, that crushing ache in the pit of the stomach, the dryness of mouth, the absolute fear that threatens to paralyse. There’s also the questionable over-use of swearing – some was character- or emotionally-driven, some not necessary.

The story was beginning to flag until Vince the criminal was introduced. This lent a lighter dimension, even if he was a stereotype:

‘Don’t spill anything,’ said Vince, who kept the truck pretty tidy. It didn’t look as though he’d ever killed anyone in here, or would want to, and I chose to take that as a good sign.

These flippant asides lighten the mood at certain points.

The puzzle concerning the disappearance is a neat jigsaw, and some of the clues are there early on, in phrasing. The ending, though rushed, was satisfying. I was entertained and moved.

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